Former University of Johannesburg (UJ) rugby captain Rudy Paige is ready to don the green and gold and fill the shoes at scrumhalf when he travels to England with the Springbok squad for the 2015 upcoming Rugby World Cup later this month.
“I am very excited about the opportunity that I have been given to represent my country at the world’s biggest rugby showpiece. I cannot wait to pull that Springbok jersey over my head,” said the 26-year-old.
The rugby prodigy worked tirelessly to harness his skill over the years in order to one day assume the coveted number 9 position in a Springbok jersey. “Coming through the ranks at UJ, then with the Lions and the Bulls, has prepared me for the challenges ahead,” said the youngster.
Rudy notes the instrumental roles the coaches he had worked with had on the development of his skills in moulding him to fulfil his deepest desire, to represent his country one day.
UJ rugby club manager Jimmy Potgieter said the University was thrilled with Paige’s selection and that he had always stood out as an exceptional player and Captain. “He came to us with a contract from the Lions rugby union and right from the start he established himself as a great leader, both on and off the field,” said Potgieter.
Potgieter affirmed that Rudy was always willing to put in the work and do more than what was expected of him and as a result of this resilient attitude, both in the game and life, he is reaping the benefits at a rather tender age. According to Potgieter, what made Paige stand out was his exceptional kicking game from behind the ruck and his quick service to the backline.
Given the chance, he could play a pivotal role between the Springbok forwards and backline come game time. Riversdale-born Paige played youth rugby for the SWD Eagles (Eastern Cape) before coming to Johannesburg where he made the Golden Lions Craven Week team in 2007 and represented the SA School side that same year.
Over the next few years he went on to represent the Lions in the Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup while also captaining the UJ Varsity Cup team, before moving to the Bulls in 2012 where he still wears the number nine jersey for their Super Rugby side. But his greatest accolade is without doubt his selection for the Springbok squad earlier this year and, although he is still to be capped, he is ready to be thrown into the deep end.
He is one of three scrumhalves – alongside stalwart Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar – included in the 31-man squad. Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer told supersport.com the similarities between Paige and Du Preez made him a better fit for the Springbok squad than Sharks rival Cobus Reinach.
Meyer said choosing between Reinach and Paige had been difficult but that Paige’s good kicking game and a recent dip in Reinach’s performance had helped him make his final decision. “Rudy Paige played very well in Super Rugby, he was selected ahead of a guy like Francois Hougaard at the Bulls,” said Meyer.
With Rudy’s selection Potgieter is confident that the Boks will be able to turn the “Paige” and bring the World Cup home to a proud Rugby nation.